Gaddafi v Telegraph Group Ltd (No.3)

Reference: 12/03/2002

Court: Queen's Bench Division

Judge: Sir Oliver Popplewell

Date of judgment: 12 Mar 2002

Summary: Defamation - Libel - pre-trial review - application by defendant to strike out claim as an abuse of the process on grounds that the Libyan claimant did not have sufficient standing or reputation in England to warrant his libel action going before a jury - application by defendant to strike out plea of foreign publication on grounds that reliance on common law presumption that foreign law the same as English law incompatible with Article 10 ECHR

Appearances: James Price QC - Leading Counsel (Claimant)  Godwin Busuttil (Defendant) 

Instructing Solicitors: Eversheds for the Claimant; Farrer & Co for the Defendant

Facts

The claimant, the son of Colonel Gaddafi, brought a libel claim against the defendant over the publication of an article in the Sunday Telegraph not just in England but in several other jurisdictions, including in the US and the Arab world. The defendant contended at the pre-trial review that the legal presumptions of a (good) reputation and damage in favour of a libel claimant were rebuttable and were rebutted in this case. Accordingly, the defendant submitted, the case ought to be struck out as an abuse. Alternatively, the defendant contended that the common law presumption that foreign law was the same as English law, which placed the burden on the defendant to rebut that presumption, was incompatible with Article 10 ECHR. Further, the defendant submitted, the claimant had failed to adduce evidence that the publication was actionable by the law of the other jurisdictions where publication had taken place and so, the claim based on those publications should not go forward.

Issue

Whether claim should be struck out; alternatively, whether foreign publications should be ruled out.

Held

Applications refused. An individual claimant was not required to establish that he had a reputation in England as a pre-condition to suing in libel; he was entitled to rely on the presumption of good reputation. The rule in University of Glasgow v Economist Ltd [1997] EMLR 495 remained good law.

Comment

Individual libel claimant not required to prove reputation or standing to sue. The rule in University of Glasgow v Economist Ltd [1997] EMLR 495 remains good law. (The first of these two points may be receiving scrutiny from the Court of Appeal in the Al Rajhi case.)